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GRIZZLIES AND US
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GRIZZLIES AND US

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About this series:

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PART I – YEAR OF THE GRIZZLY

The slow but steady expansion of grizzly populations has led to an increase in bear-human conflicts that run the gamut from minor to deadly – trash-can rummages, chicken-coop break-ins, livestock depredation, fatal human maulings. As both bear and human populations grow in the region, experts say the number of conflicts will grow as well. That leaves stakeholders to grapple with how people should react when grizzlies eventually reach their properties, and whether the bears will adapt to the limits we impose on them.

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Year of the grizzly: how 2021 conflicts might shape our perspectives on bears

OVANDO - Are grizzly bears tourist attractions, traffic hazards or nightmare killers? How people imagine bears drives a lot of how stakeholders try to manage them in the Lower 48.

Making the list: how grizzlies became endangered

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - Grizzlies once roamed widely across the West until settlers and explorers reduced their numbers out of spite and sport from an estimated 50,000 to 600 in less than 200 years time. 

A bear, a bicycle and the challenges associated with backcountry recreation

CORAM – Brad Treat’s fatal bike collision with a grizzly illustrates the challenge of recreating in bear country. With both bear populations and human activity on the upswing, conflicts will grow accordingly. 

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PART II – BEARS ON THE RANCH

Cows and sheep taste good to people and grizzly bears. The people who raise livestock, and the people who manage grizzlies, face growing conflicts as bear populations expand into grazing country. The livestock industry led the charge to eliminate predators like the grizzly from the West a century ago. Now that bears are back, can ranchers find a way to co-exist?

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What ravens, dogs, sheep and grizzlies all have to do with a Big Hole ranch

GLEN – A ranching family has used guard dogs with tracking collars and other tech to protect their sheep from predators. Now they hope an effort to keep grizzlies away from a nearby dump will solve a bigger issue – ravens.

Connectivity, livestock hang in balance as grizzlies show up in ranching town

AVON – A ranching family dealing with grizzly depredations offers an account of incidents which left one grizzly and several steers dead. Bear managers are now working with landowners as more bears arrive.

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PART III – LIVING WITH GRIZZLIES

Living in grizzly country demands adaptation and passion. As the great bear has progressed from near-extinction to near-recovery in the Continental United States, the people who live closest to them have complex opinions about how to live with an apex predator.

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Noted author, filmmaker advocates for grizzlies that saved his life

EMIGRANT – Grizzlies helped Doug Peacock heal after his traumatizing service as a Green Beret in Vietnam. In return, the author and filmmaker has dedicated his life to advocating for the bears.

Outfitter in grizzly country advises co-existence

BIG SKY – For several generations, the Kelsey family has raised cows and led groups through some of the wildest grizzly country outside of Yellowstone National Park. They’ve found a way to co-exist.

Who you looking at? Camera trap wins photographer international award

SEELEY – A Montana man's photo of a grizzly guarding a carcass won 1st place in the "Animals in their environments" category in the 2021 international Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

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PART IV – GRIZZLY SCIENCE

Recovering the grizzly bear required decades of innovative, diligent scientific effort. From the time when finding a grizzly in the wild was nearly impossible to today’s hi-tech tactics for managing grizzlies and their prey, the best available science has been constantly under review.

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Biologist's tenure along Beartooth Front spans from grizzly bear listing to repopulation

RED LODGE – For years a state wildlife biologist's efforts to spot grizzlies along the Beartooth Front were fruitless, but that changed after bear numbers rebounded in Yellowstone National Park. Now the bruins are a more common sight and a challenge to manage.

Rancher charts new way forward for dealing with grizzlies

TOM MINER BASIN – In the Tom Miner Basin near Yellowstone National Park, a ranching family has worked to live alongside grizzly bears by modifying their own behaviors, and by adopting unique technology.

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PART V – GETTING BEAR AWARE

The general public has just as much stake in grizzly bear co-existence as the wildlife managers and scientists who get paid to interact with them. That has spawned an extensive education effort to persuade people to adapt to grizzly needs before they come into conflict with the bears’ appetites and attitudes.

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Virginia City: the model Bear Smart Community

VIRGINIA CITY – Black bears used to cause havoc in Virginia City, but efforts to neutralize attractants changed that. Now, residents hope those efforts have prepared them for their next likely visitors – grizzlies.

Kylie Kembel educates Red Lodge-area residents about grizzlies

RED LODGE – As grizzlies have expanded to the Beartooth Front, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has hired Kylie Kembel to educate the public about living safely with their new, wild neighbors. 

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PART VI – LOVE GRIZZLIES OR HUNT THEM?

Grizzly bears don’t attend policy meetings. Our reactions to their activity may be rooted in economics, fear, adoration or politics. A comprehensive survey of Montana grizzly attitudes found that we love having the great bear on the landscape, and we think hunting them would be a good idea. Current science indicates those two opinions will conflict, as people assume hunting bears will solve problems when instead it may push grizzly populations back into endangered status. Can both humans and grizzly bears adapt to share the landscape they both claim?

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Survey results show Montanans love grizzlies, yet they also want to hunt them

MISSOULA – A survey of Montana grizzly attitudes show residents value having grizzlies around, but think hunting is necessary and useful – something bear biologists haven’t found much evidence to support.

Guard dogs fix some, not all bear problems at Avon ranch

AVON – A Montana rancher doesn’t agree with how grizzlies are being managed on private lands. Nonetheless, he supports the species’ right to exist and is using nonlethal methods to protect his property. 

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PART VII – THE RECOVERY PROCESS

Bears are where they find you. The history of grizzly bear recovery in Montana has shown that this opportunistic omnivore can adapt to almost any landscape it can reach, if given a chance to find food and stay out of trouble. But our tendency to leave food and trouble in bears’ reach means we must adapt to the bears’ needs, or risk pushing them back to the brink of extinction.

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Bear biologist sees human management as major challenge

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – A national park bear biologist has seen grizzly populations slowly recover. He says the main challenge is teaching  people to act responsibly for the health and safety of bears and humans.

Wayward griz shows how bears use the land, get in trouble

GOLD CREEK – Experts are studying grizzlies as they travel to new territories. One collared male has roamed to surprising places, demonstrating where more bears may show up and the precautions people should take. 

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PART VIII – WHERE BEARS GO 

Micro transmitters and satellite connectivity have exposed the secret ways of grizzlies in the wild. We’ve learned how they learn where to find food, how to avoid people and what kind of country they prefer to travel. To achieve full species recovery, grizzly bears must be able to connect isolated populations. But the corridors they use brings them into conflict with people and development that have claimed the same ground.

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Connecting recovery zones may benefit grizzly populations

BIG HOLE VALLEY – Grizzlies have made gains toward recovery, but populations may need to connect to secure long-term stability. That has prompted scientists to focus on lands that fall between large populations.

From Idaho to Montana, Ethyl the bear rambled 2,800 miles

EUREKA – A radio-collared grizzly sow took a lengthy trek through Montana and Idaho. Her trail shows the many places bears may soon inhabit as their numbers increase.

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PART IX – INDIGENOUS INPUT

While federal and state agencies have dominated grizzly bear management for decades, Native American tribal nations have co-existed with the great bear for millennia. Many tribes now claim a stake in the grizzly bear’s future, and they have historical and legal standing to make their opinions matter.

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American Indian tribes seek greater voice in grizzly management

Native American tribes throughout the Rocky Mountains have extensive traditions regarding grizzlies, and their sovereign nation status gives them legal rights in the future of grizzly management.

Spirit animal: grizzlies in the Indian world

Bear management in Indian Country looks very different from the mainstream public lands approach. For one thing, there’s a strong spiritual component.

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PART X – THE WAY FORWARD

The past year has recorded a remarkable reshuffling of political attitudes toward grizzly bears. Changes of administration in Montana and nationwide have upended long-standing positions about predator management and endangered species recovery. While the grizzly bear remains the same animal it’s always been, our human response to it, exercised through our political leadership, must find ways to link biology and behavior.

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Threat or thrill? Where do grizzlies go from here?

Grizzly bears aren’t only a challenge for Montanans. People confront the big brown bears around the world, and have many different ways of building a relationship.

Grizzlies walk political tightrope as state, feds reverse course on protections

As the grizzly population has grown, so too has the political divide in the country and Montana. How will polarization shape the future of grizzlies, a species that can be both revered and divisive?

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